This is my planned communion meditation for this Sunday:
You may have heard it on an afternoon talk show, read it in a popular Christian novel, or even been taught it by a well-meaning Bible teacher. It goes something like this: God is not a God of anger. He is not mad at you. He has never been mad at you. It's just not who he is.
But somehow, you have never really bought into it. You have considered your sins, and you have realized that you have done some ugly things with some horribly bad motives. You know that you have been unbelievably selfish and arrogant.
You have also read enough of the Bible to know that God hates sin. He has more than sufficient reasons to be mad at a sinner like you. You believe that he would be completely just if he were to strike you down and condemn you forever.
The truth is your gut instincts are right. But there is more to the story and more about the character of God that needs to be remembered as we think about the crucifixion of Christ.
In Romans 1:18, we read, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." For the rest of the chapter, the apostle Paul details our unrighteousness: idolatry, homosexual activity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, gossip, slander, disobedience to parents, and several other actions and attitudes.
Then, in chapter two, he attacks those of us who believe we may have escaped the first chapter's list of sins. He tells us that judgmentalism and hypocrisy are just as bad. God is not pleased.
Finally, in chapter three of Romans, Paul hits us with these words, "(A)s it is written, 'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:10-12, 23).
But then, a dramatic turn occurs in the next verse. We learn that we Christians "are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith" (Romans 3:24-25).
Christ became a propitiation. That's not a word we use much these days, but it's an important word. A propitiation is a sacrifice designed to take away the wrath of God. In Christ's sacrifice, he took away the wrath of God. He became our Savior.
It's true that our sins have caused our God to become angry at us. But even in his anger, he has loved us and provided us with Jesus as a sacrifice to take away both our sins and his wrath.
As Romans 5:1-2 says, "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
That's something worth remembering as we take the Lord's Supper today.